Saturday, May 27, 2006

Poll: What's your most indispensible knitting book?

I have accumulated a lot of knitting books--some more useful than others. Sometimes I go through phases of what the Darling Marxist Curmudgeon refers to as 'late-night clickety', which is basically ordering things from in the wee hours of the night when judgement is impaired and wants and needs are amplified. It usually goes a little something like this: Jane Q. Knitter raves about a certain knitting book on her blog, I follow the link and am instantly seduced by the lurid photo and salacious reviews on [N.B. I do not normally promote large multinational corporations and/or big-box stores and always root for all that is marginal, indie and local, but there are literally no independant booksellers where I live, so please forgive me.]. And then I order it. And I forget all about it until I arrive home from work (hopefully before the DMC) and pluck the package from my porch. After several moments my memory is jogged and I remember, "oh. it's that book". And then the package sits there for anywhere from 15 minutes to 36 hours, and I open it. Blah blah blah-blah-blah. Usually the book is somewhere between fine to mildly intriguing. The most recent late-night clickety produced a book that was so much more than that, as it is (are you ready?) literally the best knitting book in the entire world. I have been waiting for a book like this for a very long time. Charlotte Schurch's Sensational Knitted Socks is nothing short of a miracle. It's amazing--everything about the book is helpful. Similar to the Ann Budd books, the patterns are all based on gauge, which is incredibly freeing. Like the Vogue Stitchionary series, there are close-up images of all the stiches featured in the book. Schurch also provides instructions for each pattern using 4 dpns, 5 dpns and two circular needles--again, totally useful. Her book is so strong because it can be adapted for use by any knitter, no matter what her style and ability. Simply put, this book is indispensible for any sock knitter. I [heart] Sensational Knitted Socks!!
My unbridled enthusiasm for this tome has me thinking about knitting books in general. Some are average, many are not worth the money, others are riddled with errors, many are all flash and no substance and a great deal of them feature impossible patterns. And yet somehow others are indispensible. What makes for a good knitting book? A balance of technique and artistry? Awesome photos? A big-name celebuknitter? Tell me: what is your most indispensible knitting book?

Monday, May 22, 2006

Sloppy Seconds

Sock #1 in Claudia's Hand Painted Yarn 'Eat Your Veggies'
The appeal of the Sock Challenge is wearing off mighty quick...and it all has to do with a phenomenon many will perhaps identify with, that of the mind numbing tedium of the second sock. That initial rush of pleasure and excitement provided by the first sock, that well-known first blush of romance that happens as you discover how the yarn reveals itself (what's coming next in the pattern? More stripes? A Fair-Isle motif?) is sorely missing and turns into drudgery, a form of knitting torture. From tout beau tout nouveau to familiarty breeds contempt. The difference between the first and second sock is somehow massive. Why is this? What's the big deal? I need someone to bitch slap me back into reality and remind me that I am not being held against my will at a secret CIA prison in Eastern Europe and being required under pain of death to knit as a way of saving my life. No, I am just trying to complete a pair of socks.To make matters worse, I have accumulated even more sock yarn since my last post. Yes, that's right, your eyes are not playing tricks on you, I said more sock yarn. How quickly innocent shopping, accumulating and collecting becomes pathological hoarding! More Froehlich Wolle Blauband Jacquard and a super cute little number called GypsyKnits Traveling Sock Kit purchased at my LYS. Like I really needed this? What is the point of trying to make a dent in your sock yarn stash if you're only going to keep buying more yarn? Uff-da!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Summer Sock Challenge...

Warning: This Posting Contains Disturbing Images of Obscene Sock Yarn Stashage!
A few skeins from this yarn store here, a few more from this one there (not mention the ones from here and here and here), and suddenly the extent of this knitter's yarn gluttony becomes undeniably apparent. Yes, there's a problem. How can one knitter have so very much sock yarn and not feel mentally ill because of it? This is my question. So now that the semester is over, the grades have been calculated and submitted, the junior set is still in school for several more weeks and the Darling Marxist Curmudgeon is safely ensconced one mile underground in this Nuclear Lab doing unspeakable things to protons, I have courageously brought the sock yarn out from the nether regions of my overall stash, done a quick inventory and have come up with the following results: supposing that one skein or set of skeins will only make one pair (which with my notorious impatience with the cuff we all know that more than one pair per skein is indeed possible, but let's move on), I have enough yarn here for 33 pairs of socks!
Isn't part of the AA addiction credo owning up to what your reality is? In the spirit of this I present to you the official tally of the obscene sock yarn stash:
-10 skeins Opal (This highly addictive yarn was the gateway yarn to other, equally addictive sock yarns)
-5 skeins of Mountain Colors Bearfoot (so soft and seductive, it has a very special place in this yarn fetishist's heart)
-14 skeins of Fortissima Colori, enough for 7 pairs of socks. (I am a sucker for the bright colors featured in these colorways, esp. the ones with the disco thread that make it super '70s and shiny)
-4 skeins of Claudia's Hand Painted Yarn, enough for 2 pairs if I'm lucky. (Newest edition to stash and will remained unknitted for a shorter period of time than the other skeins as I am working on a pair right now, see below.)
-2 skeins of limited edition Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock yarn created especially for Purl, my pathetic purchase of this has already been discussed here.
-3 skeins of Froehlich Blauband Maxi-Ringel. (I love orange so was immediately sucked into this yarn, not mention that any yarn with only German on the label is terribly appealing. Words like stricken and farbe make me week at the knees. Deutschland ├╝ber alles!)
-1 skein each of Reynolds Swizzle, Plymouth Sockotta, Lana Grossa Meilenweit Inca, Zitron Trekking XXL, and On-Line (Have no idea where I got it and can't find a link. Note to manufacturers: don't name your product On-Line and expect customers to be able to look it up with ease on line...). These sad little lonely skeins that must be turned into socks in order to alleviate their feelings of alienation and solitude.
Grand total: 44 skeins
How sick is that?
In order to rememedy this untenable situation, I have set a goal for myself, I'm calling it my own personal Summer Sock Challenge. My goal is to knit at least 17 pairs before classes resume next Fall in order to make a dent in the Obscenity. I know this goal seems unrealistic, especially given the fact that I was completely done in by the sleeve of my Klaralund sweater during the recent Knitting Olympics flame-out, but I will be spending a lot ot down time at the pool with the junior set and my best pal Babs, and since I don't plan on getting into a bathing suit (which means that I should actually be setting other, more pressing fitness goals for myself, but one goal at a time, right?), I figure I should come pretty darn close. I am already out of the gate with my first pair (Claudia's Hand Painted, colorway: 'Eat Your Veggies-) started Sunday evening. I will keep you all posted on my progress and am wondering if anyone else has any similar, ill-conceived knitting goals for the summer?

Friday, May 12, 2006

Fruit loops!

Many of the appealing traits that make the Darling Resident Marxist Curdmudgeon the lovable lad that he turned out to be, can be directly traced to his mother, Jean. The way he bobs his head for emphasis in a conversation, his ability to chat about any topic, and his kindness to children and small animals are all aspects of his personality that the two have in common. She is a living doll and a one-of-a-kind gal, so I thought it fitting to make her something special for her birthday, which also happens to fall on Mother's Day. I chose the Sigma Tank from Knitty, which despite the math involved, was a quick and fun project. I did it out of Zitron Polo, a recently discontinued yarn distributed by Skacel. What is it with me and disconinued yarn? Perhaps my affection for a certain yarn necessarily dooms it to the close-out bin. In any case, my younger daughter claims that this colorway (#600) reminds her of everyone's favorite breakfast treat Fruit Loops. An interesting observation, given that to my knowledge she has never actually had Fruit Loops. As a mother, I've indeed devoted real effort into her having mainly Cheerios, but that's beside the point. Calling this tank the Fruit Loop tank is entirely appropriate, since the recipient of the tank is a little loopy herself. Jean is over 70 but has the body of a 23 year old (seriously), so I say say FLAUNT WHAT YOU GOT, JEAN in this tank! This is a woman who plays platform tennis, regular tennis, and bikes every day, plays with her grandchildren until they are tired, and was doing headstands on a regular basis all around the world (we have the snapshots to prove it) until several years ago when her doctor told her to cool it. Needless to say I love her, she's a real pip and making this for her was a lot of fun.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Peasant feet alas..

Another realization to add to my recent accumulation of narcissistic observations: not only am I not now nor have I ever been an aristocrat, I am endowed with peasant feet. Mine are not the long, delicate pieds that one could only suppose that say the Mitford sisters surely had. No, my feet are cloddish, even block-like. Perhaps even Clydesdalesque. Bruegel the elder would have felt perfectly at home painting them. They would no doubt have been suitable for field work, standing for 18 hour stretches spinning or weaving in a cotton mill, or spending long days hanging out laundry, all jobs that my Lancashire great-grandparents did without complaining. My feet are lacking in grace in every possible way. No matter, I will still subject the gentle reader to them—turn away if you fear your idealized image of the A.D.D. knitter cannot withstand the sight of her clodhoppers. They are pictured here because I finally completed the second sock of the Mountain Colors in Ruby Red, completed just in time for sandal weather! The first sock was feeling awfully lonely, forlorn, and without a purpose. And I was in need of a quick sense of accomplishment, so I sucked it up and finished it. I have a heck of a time finishing that second sock; it’s a perpetual issue for me. The romance of the first sock (how will it turn out? what’s coming next in the self-striping pattern?) fades quickly and somehow the second sock seems tedious, chore-like, like I’m a teenager and my parents are asking me to clean my room or mow the lawn. But I soon got over that bout of recurrent adolescent ideation, only to be faced with another crisis: for a frantic 10 minutes, I thought that I had done the unthinkable—lost my 98 % completed sock that only needed to be kitchener stitched! After madly rifling through the DRMC’s (Darling Resident Marxist Curmudgeon) office, convinced that he and his piles of papers had something to do with it—again, blaming and shaming are also a part of my m.o. — I remembered to look on my Kountry Krafting table, and beneath a pile of knitting magazines and patterns, there it was. Fancy that! I can now begin a new pair or socks without fear that the Knitting Police will shut me down and issue me a citation! For those who prefer to see the socks not on the peasant feet, they are pictured below...

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Rowan Taste on a Red Heart Budget or, my friends call me the Contessa!

Yo people, this weekend I had a minor realization: I am about as snobby as they come when it comes to knitting and all the various accoutrements and ancillaries that make it possible. Addis and Lantern Moon needles vs. Takumi Bamboos and those metal jobbies you see might see at a Kountry Krafts with a 'K' shoppe? Clearly the former win out. Cashmere/Merino vs. anything acrylic? Do I really need to answer that question? Rowan and Colinette vs. Red Heart and Patons? Please...There is a lot of excessive spending that has been happening here. Case in point: my needles. Let's just say I have a lot of them. And there are many, many duplicates, like at least 4 16 inch size 8s, which will come in handy if I ever invite some triplets over to make baby hats. I went through this weird phase where I would buy new needles for every project, even if I had them at home, Hell, I usually wouldn't even check. I got over that real fast, but I did a lot o' damage. Bottom line: I don't have the bank to be spending what I spend on knitting. I'm a French teacher, not an entrepreneur for crying out loud! This fact was pointed out to me ('80s credit card ho, student loan debt the size of the g.n.p. of Lesotho) by my husband, the lovable Marxist curmudgeon (zero debt, big time saver, HATED the '80s). I made the terrible mistake of asking him to grab a pair of Addi turbos for me from my Kountry Kraft Table, where they are all neatly packed away in their original packaging--yes it's a sick fetish, I know--and he got to have a first hand look at the sinfull excess that is my needle stash. Flipping through those packs of needles (with the price tags regrettably still on the outer package) the way an executive flips through a rolodex, I can only imagine the horrid moment of recognition he suddenly experienced: Mary Mother of God, I am married to the Devil. He accused me of thinking I was an aristocrat. Despite the fact that as a child I always did believe that I surely must have been a member of some royal family somewhere, I most certainly am a peasant in every way. But you wouldn't know that to look at those Addi turbos, that's for sure!